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Articulating success in West Virginia: it was decided that the first change should be to break down the existing barriers for awarding the credit at the postsecondary level.

TWO YEARS AGO IN West Virginia, college filing cabinets were stacked high with articulation agreements. College faculty members were traveling to and from area high schools in an effort to develop and finalize articulation agreements; all part of the process. And to what end? Less than 1 percent of students in the state were taking advantage of the articulation agreements. Articulation was proving to be a waste of time and energy. Colleges and high schools agreed that it warranted a review of the process and policies.

After careful scrutiny of the articulation processes, it became clear that students and parents did not understand the meaning of articulation; what it provides; how to use it; or its value. It was also determined that students who elected to use the articulation agreements were meeting barriers in accessing the credits once they enrolled in a postsecondary institution. It was apparent that if articulation was to be valued by the student, changes needed to be made. A new approach was needed. Today, more than 40,000 West Virginia students are participating in a new articulation process, called EDGE (Earn a Degree--Graduate Early). It uses the same philosophy and criteria set forth by articulation--but changes the way articulation credits are processed.

A Process of Change

Tech Prep consortia around the state began to review and brainstorm ideas on how to make articulation a value for students. It was decided that the first change should be to break down the existing barriers for awarding the credit at the postsecondary level. Secondary and postsecondary faculties collaboratively reviewed the courses identified for articulation and decided that the college credit would be awarded immediately upon completion of the articulated courses. The second change was to review the terminology used in marketing articulation to students and parents. West Virginia consortia decided to delete the term articulation from all marketing materials and communications.

The agreements are now referred to as opportunities for free community college credit. Lastly, future college plans were developed for every associate degree offered in West Virginia. These plans succinctly map the programs of study at each level (secondary and postsecondary) for the student so they can see how the EDGE (articulated) credit impacts the associate degree they wish to pursue. The future college plan depicts a time-shortened and cost-saving model.

The last challenge for the consortia was how to ensure the integrity of the EDGE initiative. It was decided that end-of-course exams would be developed collaboratively by secondary and postsecondary faculty, and passage of the exam and the class would be the criteria for earning EDGE credits. Currently, the West Virginia Department of Education provides the online end-of-course exams to all high schools.

How the End-of-Course Exams Work

In 2002, the West Virginia Department of Education, Division of Technical and Adult Education, decided that in order to comply with the Perkins III accountability requirements for technical performance, end-of-course tests would be developed for all career and technical education (CTE) courses. In West Virginia, specific areas of study are concentrations, and each concentration consists of four required courses and as many recommended electives as local districts wish to add. A test was developed for each course that is a core requirement in the concentration. The tests are course-specific and reflect the West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives for the course. Nearly 125 tests have been developed. In 2003-2004, the test mode was a fill-in-the-bubble score sheet test. Weaknesses in the system involving test security and the sheer volume of answer sheets to be graded prompted a switch to an online testing procedure in 2004-2005.

The Results

Annually, the Tech Prep consortia (secondary and postsecondary partners) review and analyze the state data on the performance of high school students who have earned EDGE credits and have transitioned to postsecondary education. In the second year of the online testing system (2005-2006), more than 43,500 tests were conducted in either the January or May through June testing periods. In 2005-2006, 29,509 students passed the end-of-course exams, and 15,398 students accepted EDGE credits. Comparatively, 26,701 students passed in 2004-2005, and only 6,203 students accepted EDGE credits.

Looking Ahead

The West Virginia Council for Community and Technical Colleges was revamping the articulation processes almost simultaneously. The changes would expand the participation of students and community colleges from a limited number of participants, to a system involving all West Virginia CTE students and all the state's community colleges. The partnership between the Community and Technical College System and the State Department of Education has resulted in college credit for students who pass the identified EDGE courses and the online end-of-course tests. As a result of changes made, the state is experiencing phenomenal articulation activity thanks to EDGE, giving students the opportunity to transition from secondary to postsecondary education with greater ease and in higher numbers.

Kathy J. D'Antoni is vice chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education. She can be contacted by e-mail at dantoni@wvctcs.org.

Gene Coulson is executive director of the West Virginia Department of Education's Office of Career and Technical Instruction, He can be contacted by e-mail at gcoulson@occess.k12.wv.us.
End-of-Course Exams Success Rates and
Number of CTE Students Accepting EDGE Credits

 2004-2005 2005-2006

Tested 41,185 43,530
Passed 26,701 29,509
Accepted 6,203 15,398

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:D'Antoni, Kathy J.; Coulson, Gene
Publication:Techniques
Geographic Code:1U5WV
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Words:898
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